Local clerics proclaim ‘ban’ on mingling of NGO women with ‘na mehram’ men in Kohistan

Published November 4, 2023
A group of religious figures outside a police station in Kohistan in a photo posted on Saturday.—Molana Karimdad/Facebook
A group of religious figures outside a police station in Kohistan in a photo posted on Saturday.—Molana Karimdad/Facebook

A group of clerics in Kohistan on Saturday proclaimed that women working with non-governmental organisations (NGO) would not be allowed to mingle with “na mahram” men in public and that doing so would require them to follow specific directives, contingent upon their marital status.

A 12-member group of clerics issued a warning that if a married woman was found accompanying a na mahram — men that women are permitted to marry — she would be expelled from the area. If a woman is single, the accompanying man must enter into a marriage with her.

However, the assistant commissioner of Kohistan’s Pattan area, Muhammad Bilal, has dismissed the “announcement” and pledged that it would not be permitted to be enforced.

On the other hand, a cleric, calling himself Maulana Karimdad, also posted the same “decision” on his Facebook account and claimed that a local station house officer had also been informed about the decision.

Speaking to Dawn.com, Karimdad said, “We cannot endorse non-religious activities in Kohistan, and these NGO women are in breach of our customs by participating in such activities.”

If they were to operate under religious laws, we would safeguard and back them, but transgressing our customs, which are not permitted by Sharia, cannot be tolerated, he added.

“NGO women who disregard our directives should consider leaving Kohistan voluntarily, otherwise, we may take measures to either remove them or facilitate their marriages to the colleagues they are seen with.”

Maulana Fazal Wahab, another religious leader, claimed that the decision was unanimous among all the ulema of Kohistan.

Speaking to Dawn.com, the assistant commissioner insisted that the clerics had made this decision for their own “vested interests”.

He pointed out that the non-profits had been operating in the area for eight months and the clerics never complained. “It appears to be a form of blackmail and nothing else,” he said.

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